TCD


A well-orchestrated ballet of Gerash sailing craft, guided by lights on the
shore of Sealiah Island, concentrates at nightfall in the three mile-wide
gap between the tip of the Isle of Sealiah and the village of Gurtus on the
mainland. The tiny settlement of Surat at Sealiah’s tip, including the fer-
ry landing, are taken by Eye of Thaumiel commandos and after that many of
the new Gerash ships traverse the narrow strait.

Five battalions of Gerash troops go ashore unopposed, led by Eye of Thaumi-
el officers. The boats must be driven well up on the beach to avoid the
omnipresent man-eating flora in the waters of the Eastern Sea. High Lord
Patriarch Kirodiel’s ships then turn southwest down the Tala Strait toward
Rumbek. In this crucial time House Gerash accumulates their forces as
quickly as possible so a credible penetration into Bellon territory can be
attempted.

At daybreak the southernmost two battalions of the amphibious invasion
force link together and march across Sealiah Island. They begin taking the
island house-to-house. At first this is accomplished with little resistance
and only scattered bow-shot. Likewise, the village of Surat in the north
falls quickly to the endless troops pouring over the beachhead. Soon the
residents of both towns regret surrendering so easily, for the Eyes of
Thaumiel begin obeying Kirodiel’s orders to kill male Brown Beards on
sight.

Meanwhile three other battalions erupt from the beach and cut southwest
across the island to join up with the first two. But Khondiel’s Fallen An-
gels issue forth from the Castle Brys to hit them on their left flank.
Princess Khondiel herself, however, remains in the castle to defend Haziel
as har personal guard.

Finally all of Sealiah is awake and begins putting up the first real re-
sistance of the new war. Movement grinds to a halt as a pitched battle de-
velops along a front that creeps south down the Isle of Sealiah. But the
army of House Gerash slowly gains the upper hand.

In the Tala Strait the defenders of Rumbek answer Lord Kirodiel’s incur-
sions with a wall of ships. In this arena alone does the House of Bellon
gain a clear victory. By the end of the first day no Gerash ships are left
to threaten Rumbek, for all the surviving ships are pulled north to defend
the beachhead.

On the second day of the war as the fighting draws near, the subjects pro-
tected in Castle Brys began leaving on foot. Khondiel and Haziel fall in
with them, and King Arman assigns a squad to guard them led by the Hashmal
Binyiel. But Haziel objects.

HAZIEL: Hashmal, please return to the King, for I have Princess Khondiel
with me, and the people of House Bellon need you and your yeng far more
than we do.

BINYIEL: Even so, the King hymself charged me never to depart your side.

And in har presence Binyiel produces the King’s own ring, embossed with the
seal of the House of Bellon, which the King used to imprint documents
sealed with wax to assure their authenticity. Now to Haziel the Hashmal
gives the King’s ring, and Haziel mourns, because sha knows this to be a
token of the King’s premonition that hy would not survive the coming at-
tack. But Haziel accepts the ring and also Hashmal Binyiel as a companion.

Even as they make their way down from the top of Sujelah Hill the road to
Mandakar along the west shore of Sealiah falls to the Army of Thaumiel.
They watch as a massive bridge is sunk by Bellon engineers with black pow-
der as a final defensive measure. But also on this day the Bellon navy
prevails in a large sea battle. They win through to demolish Lord Kirodi-
el’s pontoon bridge and they set fire to hyz remaining ships, thus cutting
off the only Gerash line of supply to Sealiah.

BINYIEL: The whole north of Sealiah is occupied. Even Kelang is under as-
sault. Only here in the extreme south does Sealiah remain free.

Over the shoulders of Mount Memalek to a seldom-seen natural bridge trudge
Khondiel and Haziel, escorted by Hashmal Binyiel and two other officers.
They move by secret paths in the steep wilderness terrain until they have
come to the village of Olivus snuggled in the hills along the southern
shore.

HAZIEL: Khondiel, I am unwarlike, and a weakling yin, and I am about to
swoon from this march. Perhaps I could rest for a while in that cottage
hard by.

KHONDIEL: What do you say to that, Hashmal?

In answer, Hashmal Binyiel approaches the nearest cottage and pounds on the
door.

BINYIEL: Open in the name of King Arman!

The yang who answers the door doesn’t look happy.

SUBJECT: What do you want?

BINYIEL: Lodging for these two travelers. They go with the blessing of the
King himself.

The owner is irritated.

SUBJECT: How much did they pay you to say that, soldier? Do you think in
this confusion the ‘blessing of the King’ are the pass words to help your-
self to the bounty of any subject of the realm?

So Binyiel produces the King’s ring, and the hospitality of that cottage
improves markedly. Haziel and Khondiel are welcomed for the night while the
soldiers stand guard outside.

As the night of the third day passes, King Arman Bellon stands hyz ground
in the walled city of Mandakar as it comes under attack by cruel flaming
catapult rounds from the surrounding lands of Sealiah Island that are al-
ready captured by Kirodiel. This is the beginning of a merciless siege by
fire that would end only when the city loses the battle to put out the
flames and succumbs three days later.

Meanwhile, at the city of Rumbek on the Isle of Liban, Count Zelus Bellon,
who rules the city in the stead of the king, learns the enemy suffers a
shortage of boats, so hy orders the bridge to Fanon island to be deliber-
ately sunk.

The easy victories of the House of Gerash up to the middle of the fourth
day are explained by their fanatical willingness to die for Thaumiel. How-
ever the resolve of their Bellon foes stiffens as the slaughter of King
Arman’s innocent subjects continue. Faced with no alternative but to die
the people make their final stand at Rumbek.

Princess Khondiel and Lady Haziel make it to the southwest tip of Sealiah,
the last unconquered piece of the island. There Rumbek is taking refugees
off Sealiah by boat. Khondiel and Haziel get in line with the rest of the
crowd while their personal squad of soldiers join others to hold off the
overland Gerash attackers in a desperate fight for enough time to allow the
refugees to escape.

BINYIEL: And now, Lady Haziel, I must spend the remaining moments of my
life in disobedience to the strict commandment of the King, and leave your
side to win time for you to escape, but I deem it the greater good.

Haziel is too emotional to say many words to him in reply.

HAZIEL: If Thaumiel is defeated, then I will make it up to you one day,
Hashmal Binyam!

He bows and leaves her then.

Suddenly there is an orange flash, and the boat which is being loaded in
front of Khondiel and Haziel catches fire. A catapult round of flaming tar
has struck home. Many nephilim, screaming in agony from their burns, des-
perately dive into the water to quench the flames of the sticky tar that
licked their clothes and skin. But they are immediately devoured by the
hungry life native to Barlelo that lives beneath the waves, and it is a
terrible sight to behold.

There are six catapults on Sealiah that lob rounds over the heads of the
city’s defenders to reach the refugee boats, but in a single moment the six
catapults themselves all catch on fire. A streak of rushing fire appears in
the sky overhead, followed by two bursts of sound so loud it seems to Khon-
diel sha would be knocked to the ground. The fire streak, Khondiel can see,
forms behind a small dark object that races across the sky almost too
quickly to follow. Before sha can point it out to Haziel it is already many
leagues away and curving back up higher into the purple skies.

It is a few moments before Khondiel has her heartbeat under control and can
find words to say.

KHONDIEL: Is that your avatar?

HAZIEL: Indeed it is, Khondiel, though I imagine Thaumiel is growing very
tired of my interference by now.

Suddenly room in another boat is found to be available for Haziel and Khon-
diel to step aboard, because many of the people aren’t certain all of the
catapults are destroyed, but Khondiel knows Haziel is meticulous in what
she sets out to do. The avatar of Chokhmah had already made its appearance
at Salem years before, killing twelve Eyes of Thaumiel, yet Taumiel has
long idled his own avatar to carry out the sham of having a dragon under
the thumb of the Antero Princess, and all that time Thaumiel could do noth-
ing to avenge the many affronts.

Haziel, for har part, suspects the dragon will make a belated appearance
soon in the skies over Rumbek to level the odds, and sha knows that will be
a terrible thing to behold, but sha says nothing of this to Khondiel.

In the heavily fortified city of Rumbek, after hours of confusion as the
refugees are sorted out, Count Zelus learns that Haziel is bearing the
King’s authentic ring. After sha surrenders the ring to hym, Zelus welcomes
Khondiel and Haziel into hyz castle.

Haziel realizes the King intended this very thing all along, for the Count
would know by this sign that the King wanted hym to rule in his stead.
Guessing King Arman to be certainly dead, Haziel thanks the memory of the
sovereign held in har heart.

Count Zelus bids them to stay with him for a few days to see which way the
war would turn.

ZELUS: Rumbek is as secure as any place in the West Lands are these days.
No army has ever breached the Nine Mile Wall.

The Count has turned the forces at the Nine Mile Wall inside out like a
reversible jacket, such that they are defending the peninsula of Magodon in
the event Rumbek falls to Kirodiel’s attack from the east, rather than de-
fending Rumbek from Antero attacks from the west.

In the very chamber where Queen Aurra had convened the Council, the surviv-
ing royals meet once more again to speak with Lady Haziel about har offer
to whisk the noble ones home again in har avatar, even as many of them had
been brought to Rumbek.

Baron Kerresh is to be taken west to meet up with the Antero army and take
command of the Bellon forces which marched with them. Queen Aurra Sala,
her Consort, and Countess Ayani were slated to be taken home to the lands
of the Gold Beards, and the queen thinks to take both of her serving girls
as well, but Baron Bayard declares that he wills stay behind to aid Count
Zelus.

BAYARD: I would ask that the servant wench Aliwe Halil stay with me.

Luzea Cedarbranch howls in greatly dismay because she would be parted from
her best friend and lover, possibly forever. Aliwe tries to assure her it
would turn out well, which made Luzea feel a little better, but when she is
pressed to give a reason for her confidence Aliwe can give none.

Queen Aurra narrows har eyes.

AURRA: Am I to believe my son cannot set aside his…hobby…for the dura-
tion of one battle for the life of the Brown Beard capital?

BAYARD: I know what it looks like, my mother and Queen, but the girl has
luck bordering on the supernatural. One might even suspect Aliwe is more
than human.

The Queen sighs, and nods har assent.

AURRA: Say what you would have me do in my land, Lady Haziel.

HAZIEL: You see the problem, of course, Your Highness. People blindly natu-
rally gather themselves into large settlements, driven by simple economics.
After that, they attempt to protect their cities with walls, but walls are
no defense against the avatar of Thaumiel and stone dwellings are no pro-
tection from his dragon. The solution is as obvious as it is simple, but it
will require a mighty hand and much time to overcome thousands of years of
tradition. Instead of a few large cities and towns dotting the land, the
people of House Sala must live in many small settlements with no more than
fifty souls, spread evenly across the land as well as hidden under the
land, with leagues upon leagues between each one.

AURRA: Such a drastic change! Is there no alternative?

HAZIEL: None for House Sala, since only a single ice bridge stands between
your land and the invading armies of House Gerash. And there are forces
that can overthrow an entire city of stone in a single moment when yeng
learn to harness them, as they must someday. When that time comes, only a
decentralized House Sala will be able to withstand them. At that time at-
tacking you will be like trying to dig a hole in a lake of water.

And so the queen and her entourage embark for Saharad after many tears of
parting between Luzea and Aliwe. The avatar then whisks back to Rumbek with
certain officers of House Sala possessing skills uniquely honed to fend off
attacks such as the one presented now by Lord Kirodiel.

Of the Red Beards, Count Berek, hyz wife Losna, and Baron Priam remain in
Rumbek to aid House Bellon, but at the Count’s request hyz wife Losna is
taken by the avatar of Chokhmah to Gerazan. Raddai the Bold, Count of Be-
len, remains behind to help defend the city, and despite the extreme danger
Lady Irus stays behind with hym. But the rest of the Black Beard contingent
go home with King Garand in Chokhmah’s avatar.

For a number of days Lord Kirodiel completely bypasses the hard target of
Rumbek. Hyz army destroys the villages of Teal and Olivus, then fans out
through all the surrounding hills. By the end of the third day the city of
Mandakar lies in smoking ruins, and the entirety of Sealiah Island lies
under the boots of the invading House Gerash.

At Mandakar the Gerash forces roll forward a prefabricated bridge and swung
it out on a pivot to connect Fanon Island to Sealiah Island once more. Sup-
ported by many small boats the bridge swings across during a lull in the
naval engagement when the forces of Rumbek have pulled back many ships to
reduce the alarming losses from Gerash suicide commando swimming parties.
The bridges from Fanon Island to Krone Island, and also to the main city on
Liban Island, are preemptively sunk by Count Zelus to limit their losses.

This new intensity in Gerash violence is a set piece put on for High Lord
Patriarch Kirodiel, who is now physically present on the battlefront rather
than leading from behind as is often hyz preference.

Princess Khondiel stands long atop the ramparts of the walls of the city of
Rumbek, and to har martial mind it is apparent that House Gerash is steadi-
ly gaining the advantage against House Bellon by sheer dint of numbers, and
the hate by which the Gerash warriors flung themselves into battle. So
Khondiel bids Haziel to immediately journey with har west beyond the Nine
Mile Wall while the route is still clear.

KHONDIEL: I perceive the siege of Rumbek will soon grow strait, and the
Brown Beard navy will be tasked to defend the city itself, letting the in-
vincible Nine Mile Wall, undefeated in war, defend the rest of Magodon. But
should Rumbek fall and Lord Kirodiel besiege the wall, none will then find
their way through it, be they friend or foe.

Haziel agrees with Khondiel. Sha asks leave of Count Zelus Bellon, which
hy grants with great deference, and sha leaves with a few words.

HAZIEL: King Arman is surely dead, or captured, as you have surely guessed,
and that is a grievous loss, my Lord, and if we had time I would mourn with
you and the people as is fitting. Yet King Arman’s sacrifice is not wholly
in vain, I deem. The house of Bellon does not stand against Gerash alone,
and the king may have won for you the time you needed for the house of An-
tero to march to your aid from the west.

ZELUS: I thank you for the spirit in which you intend to say these words to
me, Lady Haziel, but if Rumbek is destined for a dark and bloody fate, I
consider it my duty to share in that fate full-willing, and it pains me to
say so, but false words of hope are worse than none at all, I deem.

HAZIEL: Count Zelus, it is the farthest thing from my mind to throw you a
line of hope and then fail to tie off my end. Little do you know of my la-
bors to bring hither aid from House Bellon. If Rumbek can hold out for yet
a little while more, then High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash may find hy
has stepped into a trap. Then all who crave peace might win through to the
day when King Arman is laid to rest in honor, and you are crowned king in
this city. Farewell!

Princess Khondiel has judged well the time of their departure. Mere hours
after sha and Haziel depart Rumbek and take the bridge to the narrow strip
of land at the foot of the Nine Mile Wall, the Brown Beard navy rallies all
their ships around the Isle Liban. This leaves Lord Kirodiel free to pull
all hyz troops off Sealiah except those directly involved in the Rumbek
siege, and those troops are ferried across the channel to the bench of land
nigh to the Wall almost on the very heels of Haziel and Khondiel.

The beautiful dwellings and public buildings of Krone Island, isolated now
from Liban, are burned to the ground in a blaze kindled by Lord Kirodiel
hymself. After the fire consumes everything and the flame abates, Kirodiel
scattters the embers in the sight of the defenders of Rumbek looking on
from across the strait and hy also sprinkles the ground with salt.

KIRODIEL (in a loud voice): Even so shall Rumbek be wasted utterly.

And the hearts of the folk of Rumbek fall.

The peninsula of Magodon is ringed on three sides by cliffs of sandstone
which rise from the sea some four hundred feet, but at the Nine Mile Wall
yeng erected masonry that made that tall cliff purely vertical, slotted in
many places with holes for observation and to shoot arrows or pour boiling
liquids. The wall is higher than the face of the cliff, so that it could
face west as well as east, as the need might be. Between the face of the
wall and the face of the natural cliff which it encloses are many platforms
and stairs and catacombs filled with weapons for the bane of besieging
armies and stores to supply defenders for many days of battle.

When Princess Khondiel and Lady Haziel are admitted through the Wall they
climb many steps and ramps until they arrive on the plateau of Magodon at
the top, where they behold the banners and ranks of countless troops from
the House of Antero. Then Haziel knows har long labors have born fruit.
For sha has kept har avatar at a remove lest Kirodiel force the tangle with
hyz dragon too early, and so Haziel did not known of the presence of the
Red Beards until sha saw the host with har own eyes.

Bellon troops who are rallying to the aid of Rumbek from across the land of
the Brown Beards have also come to the city with the forces of the House of
Antero. Already many of these are filling positions on the Nine Mile Wall
to turn back the Gerash invaders.

But there in the sight of everyone under arms Demonstroke arrives on the
east wind. The flying beast releases from its left claw something resem-
bling a star that falls from the sky burning like a torch, and it strikes
the ground near the center of the Nine Mile Wall with great violence, such
that it digs a deep pit therein.

And Demonstroke releases from its right claw another projectile that falls
directly into this new pit, and there follows a blast under the ground of
such a magnitude as had not been seen on Barbelo since the fall of the as-
teroid that brought the world flood, and never in living memory.

The bottom half of the Nine Mile Wall nigh to Rumbek blows straight out,
and the masonry of the Wall above the blast collapses in ruin, and in place
of a sheer wall there is now a ramp of sand, but many besieging Gerash
troops also die, or are buried alive by the debris.

Lord Kirodiel pays no mind to hyz own casualties. Hy commands hyz remaining
generals to charge up that ramp with their divisions to the Magodon plateau
above, and they immediately began to comply.

Then Demonstroke himself drops from the sky and crashes to the battle plain
behind the wall, and smoke rises from its black carcass like the smoke of a
great furnace, and the orange sun is darkened by reason of the smoke. And
the dragon rises again out of the smoke glittering with black armor as
smooth as glass, and its teeth are rockets which are loosed against yeng,
and the sound of its wings are like a great waterfall. And Demonstroke has
a flexible tail like a scorpion, and there is a gun in that tail which
kills yeng with rounds as thick as a thumb.

Demonstroke descends among the ordered ranks of the allied families like a
storm, killing yeng at will, and scatters them in disorder before they can
make a counter-charge down the new ramp in the Nine Mile Wall.

When Khondiel sees all this sha holds Haziel’s hand and squeezes it.

HAZIEL: Alas, our enemy Kirodiel is come”

And Haziel knows the dragon has the power to snatch har victory away when
sha is on the very cusp of attaining it, and that was reason enough to sum-
mon har own avatar, but sha finds that neither victory nor defeat means
much to har now. A new thing has come to dominate Haziel’s consciousness.
When sha looks upon Khondiel sha sees har anew, as though gazing upon har
for the very first time. Haziel finds that Khondiel has suddenly become the
most important thing in creation to har, and sha is desperate to get Khon-
diel away from the field of battle.

A living star has fallen in love with a planet-dweller.

Demonstroke alights near High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash on the battle
plain. Joy and Lord Kirodiel dismount from the beast. They come before the
Gerash Patriarch, who bows to Lord Kirodiel deeply. After hy pays obeisance
the three of them witness the avatar of Chokhmah also landing on the pla-
teau of Magodon close to them.

KIRODIEL: Destroy the avatar of Chokhmah immediately!

JOY: Yes, my Lord!

Joy bows her head in acknowledgement and runs back toward the waiting drag-
on.

Khondiel guesses the time is very short now.

KHONDIEL: Speak plainly to me now, Haziel. What do you want me to do?

HAZIEL: My avatar will take you far away from this place. I want you to go.
No, I need you to go. Something happened to me just now. Khondiel, you are
now the most important thing in heaven or Earth or Barbelo to me.

KHONDIEL: If I leave in your avatar, House Bellon and House Antero will
have no defense against the dragon. Forget about me, Haziel!

But Haziel recalls Khondiel’s own words at the Battle of Salem when sha saw
har naked in a cage and Haziel told Khondiel to forget about har. Haziel
repeats the words again for Khondiel now, tearfully.

HAZIEL: Don’t you know by now that’s the one thing I can never do?

And Khondiel openly weeps, because for the first time sha knows har undying
love for Haziel is truly being reciprocated at last, and they are mostly
tears of happiness.

HAZIEL: All those things I preached to everyone about love were really just
so much straw, because I didn’t know what love really meant until now, nei-
ther as Haziel nor as Chokhmah, nor as both, neither as nephil nor living
star.

Khondiel still wants to protest, but sha can see the dragon is now rising
above the battle plain, and sha can see that Haziel desperately needs har
to do this thing. So sha kisses Haziel and climbs inside the avatar like
sha has done many times before.

Then the avatar of Chokhmah leaps in to the sky with fire and smoke and
noise, and Khondiel, pressed against the rear hatch, feels harself to be
too heavy to move, and once again sha is deeply terrified, which is an ex-
traordinary thing, for Khondiel leads the Fallen Angels. But har terror is
not rooted in har own personal safety. Khondiel is afraid that the love
that has been acknowledged at last by Haziel will never now take root and
flourish. Such a good thing! And it wasn’t going to happen. No. Khondiel of
a surety knows that now.

Demonstroke lumbers into the sky after har and smites the avatar with a
fearsome white flame directly from the heart of the orange sun, a flame
that pours from its open mouth, and the avatar is destroyed, which is no
small feat, for it had been made deep in the belly of Sol. And Princess
Khondiel, riding inside, instantly dies and is lost forever to Haziel.

Binah tells her parent there is simply no scenario by which history can be
changed on Barbelo to save Khondiel.

Thaumiel feels the fold-line that once linked Chokhmah to the avatar re-
tract through the fold-door that he keeps open in his capital city, never
to return again.

In that very moment Haziel knows Khondiel is dead, and the world seems to
turn empty and gray to har. Sha refuses to speak a word until long after-
wards, for sha is utterly lost in har grief. In a daze, Haziel falls in
among the forces of House Antero as they return to the west, fighting
(along with the stragglers of Bellon) a fierce rear-guard action against
Lord Kirodiel.

Joy flies the dragon back to her master Lord Kirodiel. Hy praises her for
removing the thorn of Chokhmah’s ancient avatar from Barbelo, but hy also
laments.

KIRODIEL: It will be such a small thing for Chokhmah to enlarge his link
with the avatar of Binah and cause the seed of one or more new avatars to
pass through it and unwrap, and thus attempt to hinder me on Barbelo yet
again.

And Joy is astonished, because she discerns that Kirodiel does not know a
certain thing that she is free to reveal.

JOY: It may please the Lord to learn that since the conception of Binah,
Chohkmah is no longer free to construct an avatar within his body, nor may
Binah construct an avatar within hers, for the life of both elohim share a
single sun, and to build an avatar now within this shared sun would kill
one and perhaps also the other.

Then Kirodiel literally rubs hyz hands in evil glee, knowing the course of
action that now lies open to hym.
—————————————————————————
Haziel stumbles west with the defeated forces of House Antero, Bellon and a
regiment of Fallen Angels for days before sha shakes off har own self-pity
over the loss of har precious Khondiel and realizes there are injured peo-
ple around har who need the knowledge and skills of a healer. So sha begins
to carry har own freight long before reaching the first major Antero city
of Jelaket. As Haziel walks without the benefit of riding in har avatar or
even on horseback sha learns directly in the muscles of har legs and in the
soles of har feet what a large planet Barbelo truly is.

Baron Bayard Sala tells hyz serving wench Aliwe Halil to walk close to Lady
Haziel and that har smallest whims are to be taken as direct commands. The
two seem to quickly develop a language of their own and speak of many
things that are incomprehensible to the Baron when hy happens to catch a
word or two, tales of swarms and moons, of things called micros and other
things called macros. And after Aliwe’s first words with har the Baron and
soon everyone else notices that Haziel has begun to smile again and seems
to shed all vestiges of har grief at last.

The forces of House Antero has horses, yet they use them only as beasts of
burden to carry supplies, and the yeng walk beside their horses that they
might stay and protect Haziel. Baron Priam Antero had fallen in battle, but
King Brogan and Count Berek yet live.

None of the House of Larund walk with them save Lady Irus, for har husband
Count Raddai had also fallen at the Nine Mile Wall, yet Lady Irus never
shows the level of grief that afflicted Haziel with the loss of Khondiel.
For Irus and har husband had freely come to aid the Brown Beards, and when
sha saw Raddai consumed by the fire of the dragon har heart was salved
against the pain of losing him with the pride of knowing hy fell after a
most valiant stand.

At Jelaket the ranks of the stragglers begin to thin, but the rest press on
across the heart of the West Lands to the Antero capital of Vaska. As they
draw near the subjects of King Brogan send trains of supplies to aid their
march, including many horses, for Jelaket has none, having sent nearly all
of them with the forces that had come to aid Rumbek.

In Vaska when King Brogan and Count Berek have been welcomed home by the
people of the city, Haziel is bid by the king to stay and rest for as long
as sha would like. But Brogan laments the faithlessness of hyz daughter
Keri, which had brought all of this grief down upon them.

HAZIEL: Or so Thaumiel would have you believe, Your Highness. Thaumiel
takes pleasure in turning the things we love against us, King Brogan. In
time the shame you feel over your daughter will be transformed into anger
against Thaumiel. And after that, perhaps your anger will be transformed
once more, but into pity. For Thaumiel is well embarked on a path toward
his own dissolution and is indeed to be pitied. Great has been his fall
heretofore, and greater still the depths he has yet to fall. Thaumiel might
succeed in gaining direct control of all of Barbelo one day, but the one
who controls the world, whatever it is, will not be of the elohim or any-
thing like us.”

BROGAN: Then what do you council for House Antero?

HAZIEL: House Antero is unfortunately in a most precarious position, for
there exists no natural barrier except distance between your city of Jela-
ket and downfallen Elketz in Magodon. Next year Lord Kirodiel will arrive
here demanding tribute. Hy will begin to build garrisons throughout your
land and Demonstroke will darken your skies to protect them. Behind him
will be the combined might of House Gerash and House Bellon in a newly-dou-
bled army of Thaumiel. You have no hope of succeeding if you offer resist-
ance. So I council that you do not resist. Pay the tribute. Aid Kirodiel in
building hyz garrisons, as hy will demand.

BROGAN: And the honor of the Red Beards will never be retrieved again.

HAZIEL: Yes, King Brogan, that is true. But in return, you will preserve
the lives of your people and the lives of House Larund beyond yours. You
will find that the Law of Thaumiel has prepared the White Beards to assail
any resistance until it breaks, but after it breaks this law flounders, and
when presented by no resistance at all, the death culture it fosters slips
into the inactivity of confusion, which is why we were not pursued after
the war. You see, the one thing Thaumiel cannot teach the people to do is
to simply live. So lay down your self-respect, King Brogan, and live, that
you may know a deeper victory over your foe.

BROGAN: It will be made so. And yet, Lady Haziel, there remain tokens of
the shame of House Antero I can no longer bear to have in my keeping.

The King unrolls a rich black cloth on hyz table so Haziel can behold the
glittering broken shards of Dragonthorn.

BROGAN: Take these far away from my kingdom, I beg you.

HAZIEL: It will be as you say, King Brogan.

And Haziel commits the relics to the keeping of Aliwe.

After a month in the house of the king, Haziel and har dwindling group ride
to Gerazan to winter over. Then together with Aliwe, Lady Irus, Baron Ba-
yard, and a brigade of Fallen Angels, Haziel crosses the ice bridge that
leads from the far west of the West Lands to the far east of the East
Lands. They are almost precisely on the other side of Barbelo from Thaumi-
el’s capital city in the center of the Middle Lands. For all their journey
they are never assailed by Demonstroke as Haziel feared they would be.
Thaumiel had essentially forgotten all about Haziel.

Bereft once more of horses, the party spends the entire (albeit short)
planting season on the move, so Haziel knows nothing but bitter white cold
for the better part of a year. But harvest time is unusually warm, almost
hot, and sha is in good spirits as they come down off from the ice to the
outskirts of Belen. Here is the very source of the River Bandar, emerging
from the face of a melting glacier. Every hour or so, a portion of the ice
melts, releasing a boulder, sometimes the size of a house, into the vale
below. But the stream is too wild to survive running it in a raft. The
journey, by necessity, remains by foot, parallel to the river.

At length, Haziel’s group arrives in the city of Locotin in the center of
the Black Beard lands. They have come to the end of their walking travels.
Lady Irus commissions a barge and floats with Haziel down the River Bandar
to the capital city of Peshast, where the people marvel to see the wife of
Count Raddai returning from a battle beyond the end of the world.

The Black Beard commitment to the war had been relatively meager, due to
the great distance involved, so King Garand bears no resentment toward Haz-
iel for the defeat.

HAZIEL: Of the three houses that remain opposed to Thaumiel, House Larund
has the best disposition. You have flown in my avatar, King Garand, so you
know Barbelo is in the shape of a ball, and the lands of House Larund are
furthest from the Middle Lands. On the west you are protected by a great
natural wall. On the east are two ice bridges and a friendly House. I do
not think you will be subject to invasion, but for a time, I believe you
might face raids from the dragon controlled by Joy. Therefore I council
that you convert all the dwellings in the land of the Black Beards into
houses of stone.

GARAND: Certainly Demonstroke will be able to flatten even these.

HAZIEL: What you say is true, King Garand, nothing can withstand a direct
assault from the dragon, not even the fabled Nine Mile Wall was proof
against it as we saw. Yet your cities as they are presently constructed are
little more than so much stacked dry timber to be kindled by Demonstroke in
a single strike. Why make it easy for Joy?

GARAND: Your counsel is good, Lady Haziel. You have traveled far. I offer a
wing of the castle to be a home for yourself and your Fallen Angels, if you
would abide here in Peshast. Many of our people have assigned their loyal-
ties to Chokhmah rather than Thaumiel, much as House Sala has done and here
you would have much to teach and do. Your reputation as a healer is well-
known.

HAZIEL: I thank you deeply for your offer, King Garand, and indeed I will
avail myself of it for a little while. But Peshast will not be my final
home. My daughter has summoned a woman of the b’nei elohim named Victoria
to come to our aid, and I must wait here until she arrives.

Baron Bayard is bid to stay in Peshast as well. This had been hyz home when
hyz mother Queen Aurra had exiled hym in punishment for hyz taste in women
and yen of low station. And the baron’s servant girl Aliwe was fully occu-
pied, but more often than not her task was simply trying to keep Bayard’s
hands away from her slender body.

Thaumiel has a dragon, certainly, but Binah has a woman who can fly. Her
name is Victoria and she is a third-generation b’nei elohim. Yeshua got
the idea of a flying woman from that one time when che departed from hez
followers in Jerusalem and ascended into the sky. On the summit of Mount
Olive che had summoned a worm-tunnel mouth, stepped into it, and had re-
mained entirely visible to the disciples as che physically moved the bubble
into the air, riding along with it. The same mechanism was used to allow
Victoria to fly on Earth and also on the Earth’s moon, the only difference
was that Binah handed full control of the position of the worm-tunnel mouth
to her.

Haziel asked to borrow Victoria after learning of har existence during har
long talks with Aliwe. Indeed, it was Aliwe who first explained to Haziel
that her daughter would, far in the future, possess the body of a jen named
Yeshua and freely traverse time. And Aliwe served as the link to convey
the historical Haziel’s request to the future Yeshua.

And so Victoria immediately comes to Barbelo through the Sacred Pool. She
drops to one knee before Yeshua.

VICTORIA: Command me, Lord.

It was written by Paulus that every knee will bow at the name of Yeshua and
every tongue confess that Yeshua was Lord. The b’nei elohim consider them-
selves to be the greatest servants of Yeshua.

YESHUA: I need you to kill an errant dragon.

Not for an instant does Victoria blanch.

VICTORIA: Such a simple thing, Lord? I would love to whack a dragon for
you, of course, but there is one small hitch. I can’t fly on Barbelo.

Yeshua then orders the Ark of the Covenant to be brought out and propped
just above the dark wooden decking that surrounded the Sacred Pool.

YESHUA: Touch one of the cherubim on the cover of the Ark.

For the Ark, as the only remaining avatar of Chokhmah on Barbelo, is also a
receptacle for the end point of a one-dimensional fold-space line. Chokhmah
uses the physical structure of the Ark as a reference to keep the end-point
of the worm-line positioned within. But after Victoria touches the lid of
the Ark, that worm-line begins to track on her body like an invisible piece
of string cheese she can never shake loose.

Now Victoria is the Ark, for all practical purposes. For the time being,
the original Ark is just an inert piece of gold-covered wood, with no con-
nection to the elohim at all.

YESHUA: The fold-line cannot act as a tunnel, that requires a continuous
flow of dark energy and I’m only budgeted for the one that connects to this
pond of water. But the end of the fold-line you now possess can balloon out
like a pod, just big enough to contain you, and of course you can now con-
trol where that pod takes you, in the usual way.

VICTORIA: Which is to say, Lord, I can now fly on Barbelo. Where shall I
go?

YESHUA: Haziel is waiting for you in the King’s castle in Peshast, the
capital city of the Black Beards, east from here and over the Wall of God.
There sha will give you the weapon you will use to kill Demonstroke.

Victoria bows.

VICTORIA: Thank you, Lord Yeshua, for giving me this opportunity to bring
glory to our divine Father.

YESHUA: Chokhmah doesn’t need glory, Victoria, he just needs the dragon
dead. But I will say to you that you are entirely welcome for this opportu-
nity to have more fun than any member of the b’nei elohim has ever enjoyed
before.

The demigod Victoria, daughter of Ariel, granddaughter of Robyn, exults as
she flies in the violet sky of Barbelo. Victoria soars over the River Ar-
mak, which flows west from the place where it was joined by the river Arhe-
na. She continues to fly along the River Arhena east, always east, as the
awesome Wall of God begins to loom as a barrier before her.

Victoria looks down and sees trees with leaves of many colors, red and
green, yellow and gold, such that the land looks to be perpetually in the
full glory of autumn as it was known on Earth. Yet Barbelo’s trees are nev-
er bereft of leaves, for there are no seasons as there are on Earth. In-
stead the leaves fall from their trees individually after a span, and are
replaced by another.

The source of the River Arhena is a perpetual rain that falls as a mist in
the center of the Wall of God. Victoria becomes thoroughly soaked as sha
flies through this heavy drizzle. A little more than halfway up the dark
Wall of God, at 10,000 feet, the mist becomes a solid white sheet of fall-
ing water. This is the greatest cataract known by humans and nephilim to
exist.

At 19,000 feet Victoria flies over the rim and turns horizontal once again,
and alights, for the ancient agreement is that Binah can only operate her
end of the fold-line within the boundaries of the land that one day, cen-
turies from the current point of view of Haziel, would be named Haaretz. On
foot, Victoria follows the chief waterway of the Black Beards, the River
Bandar, east through high hills to the city of Peshast.

Victoria approaches the guards of the castle.

VICTORIA: I am Victoria of the b’nei elohim. I was summoned here by Haziel
herself, gentlemen, so please take me to her.

Victoria is brought to Haziel in the council chamber, and as she had done
in Canterwood she kneels in worship, for any one of the b’nei elohim are
much more aware of the awesome difference of the elohim than most other
humans were. Haziel welcomes Victoria and tells her to rise.

VICTORIA: My Lady, I am called Victoria. Binah told me you have a weapon to
kill Demonstroke.

HAZIEL: Aliwe, please do the honors.

Aliwe unwraps the black cloth from around the broken pieces of Dragonthorn,
the blade Kari Antero once used to command Demonstick.

HAZIEL: This is the only heirloom we possess with which we can hope to even
the odds against the dragon and it is nothing more than a pile of sharp
baubles.

Victoria steps forward to gather up the diamond shards. The one still at-
tached to the hilt could serve as a long dagger, or very short sword.

VICTORIA: I think I can fly behind the dragon and ram this into hyz brain.

BAYARD: The covenant says she who wields Dragonthorn must be a virgin wom-
an. Otherwise the dragon will not be mortally wounded.

Which was the Baron’s way, of course, of saying hy was interested in Victo-
ria and wanted to know more about her. Hy wasn’t quite sure where a b’nei
elohim female fit on the spectrum between commoner and noblewoman.

VICTORIA: I have never known man.

She doesn’t mention the crazy lesbian sex sha once had with her aunt Ariel.
Maybe that skirted the intent of the virginity requirement, but it was the
elohim, after all, who made their demigod servants such utter horn dogs.

After Victoria officially joins Haziel’s group they ride down the river
Bandar to the town of Vesa, where the Fallen Angels camp outside the city.
The royals reserve an inn. There, after supper has finished, the conversa-
tion turns to strategy.

VICTORIA: Where, actually, is this dragon located?”

Baron Bayard asks the innkeeper if there is a map of Barbelo at hand. When
servants post it on the wall of the dining hall, Baron Bayard walks up to
it.

BAYARD: Behold the Wall of God. The woman Joy is said to keep Demonstroke
in an aerie high above the Valley of Ten Thousand Creeks that come together
to form a river, approximately here. You can see this is a fairly wild re-
gion but there are scattered settlements of Gold Beard colonists, and even
the houses of a few Black Beards here and there.”

VICTORIA: Hell. In the morning I can find this aerie myself and dispatch
the dragon as I have been commanded.

HAZIEL: That will not do. I have no doubt you can do precisely as you have
described, but it’s no good if you just kill the dragon in secret. People
have to see you do it. That’s what this is really about. People have to see
that we are resisting Thaumiel.”

VICTORIA (bowing her head): As you say, Lady Haziel.

BAYARD: Some of you might have surmised that I intend to use the Catwalk to
reach this land from here.

VICTORIA: And what dear Baron is this Catwalk of which you speak?

BAYARD: The Catwalk, Lady Victoria, is a path carved into the stone face of
the wall which drops four air miles in one hundred Catwalk miles. But it is
precarious beyond belief. There are places where the Catwalk is no wider
than one of your feet is wide.

ALIWE: M’lord Baron, please tell me this Catwalk comes with a safety rail.

BAYARD: The Catwalk comes with no rail. We must take our own precautions.
Oh, did I mention that one part of the Catwalk entails a rope traverse?

VICTORIA: Naturally I do not fear this Catwalk. But do have caution, all of
you. If anyone falls, I will not be able to stave off your death. I can
carry little more than this blade which I intend to use to slay Demon-
stroke.

HAZIEL: I do not doubt the courage of anyone in this company to continue,
but it may be the case that not everyone will be mentally prepared to nego-
tiate it, as the Baron describes it. Let everyone turn it over in their
mind as we ride to the rim tomorrow, for it shall be there that whoever
freely elects to end their part of our quest must remain behind while the
others go on.

An awkward silence falls as everyone contemplates how they would react when
they see the Catwalk.

Haziel turns to the commanding officer of the Fallen Angels who is also
present at the inn.

HAZIEL: Tell the dolls what they’re facing tomorrow and make the same of-
fer. I am not ordering any of them to accompany me to Haaretz. But if they
elect to stay behind here in the lands of House Larund they must disband as
Fallen Angels, and by that I mean they must not even form veteran socie-
ties. I will not have King Garand troubled by the presence of a regiment of
foreign troops in hyz realm.